Countless tomes worth of commentary have already been written about the relative horsepower of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and we still have two months to go before launch. To curb speculation, Microsoft has gone out of its way to dismiss the PS4′s perceived superiority, but recent reports indicate that Redmond might be in more trouble than it is letting on. If these rumours are to be believed, the PS4 is actually upwards of 50 per cent more powerful than the Xbox One.
Edge recently ran a story claiming that the PS4′s RAM is between 40 and 50 per cent faster than the RAM in the Xbox One. More surprisingly, the PS4′s ALU (Arithmetic Logic Unit) is also roughly 50 per cent faster than the Xbox One’s.
Even worse still, one example has an unoptimised game running at 30 frames per second (fps) at 1920 x 1080 on the PS4, while the Xbox One version runs at below 30 fps, at just 1600 x 900. That’s not representative of final results, but it is worrisome news to hear so close to the launch of the next generation.
Game performance isn’t strictly reliant on the power of the hardware, mind you. The quality of the graphics drivers and available APIs can make a huge difference when it comes down to squeezing out a better frame rate. While the PS4 and Xbox One’s graphics drivers aren’t completely baked yet, some developers have claimed that Microsoft is significantly lagging behind Sony. Regardless of Microsoft’s company line, it seems that numerous developers are already being tripped up by the Xbox One.
I spoke to our hardware analyst, Joel Hruska, and he seems to think that the Xbox One’s 32MB of ESRAM – a supposed ace up Redmond’s sleeve – is hampered by its oddball configuration. That feeling seems to be mirrored by an anonymous game developer who claims that it is “a pain to use [the Xbox One's] ESRAM.” While the ESRAM does have the potential to help close the gap between the PS4′s GDDR5 RAM and the Xbox One’s slower DDR3 RAM, it seems that it will require a lot of additional work to see much of a performance increase.
As Sony and Microsoft scramble to get everything ready for the next-gen launch, we’re stuck waiting patiently to see how these consoles perform under real-world conditions. We’ve yet to see much actual gameplay footage running on final hardware, so speculation and hearsay is all that’s left.
After the consoles ship, and the first round of games is out of the way, we’ll finally begin to get a clearer picture of how different the PS4 and Xbox One will actually be. The proof in the pudding will have to wait for the second big wave of games some time in 2014, though. By then, developers will have had enough time with both development environments to effectively push up against the actual hardware limitations.
While you're here, you might also want to check out The Xbox One's game performance: Raw horsepower won't be the only factor.